Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication Date: May 2nd, 2017
Pre-Order: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn, comes a sweeping, action-packed YA adventure set against the backdrop of Feudal Japan where Mulan meets Tamora Pierce.
The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.
Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.
I live in North Carolina (Go Heels!) with my husband Victor and our dog Mushu. My YA fantasy novel, THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, is available wherever books are sold. Its sequel, THE ROSE AND THE DAGGER, will be published on April 26, 2016. In my spare time, I like to cook, dance salsa, and wreak havoc on the lives of my characters.
Brittany: Let's talk about the differences between writing [Flame in the Mist] versus writing The Wrath and the Dawn. Was there anything different about your process?
Renée: When you read The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and The Dagger, they're mired in this notion of the power of story because Shazi is literally telling stories to stay alive. So I'd say that the tension, while it's really built into the situation . . . there's not a lot of action happening on the page, especially in the beginning of The Wrath and the Dawn. You can feel how tense it is and how afraid you are for her, cause her life is being threatened, and she's trying to tell stories to understand what's going on and . . . conceal who she is and what her wants are. Khalid is also trying to control who he is and he doesn't want anyone to know; so there's a lot going on with tension.
With the Flame in the Mist, there's a lot more [physical] action going on, so it's kind of creating a different sort of tension and I had a really good time doing that because Mariko, she's a girl . . . dressed as a boy-warrior, and she's infiltrating a clan of ninja, so it was super fun writing these scenes! Because Shazi is one of these characters who has a lot of spirit, but a lot of her action and a lot of her drive is almost . . . cerebral, so it's word-play. Mariko is a scientist who's also trying to overcome her very analytical nature and to take action. She's trying to learn how you take action of these situations, and I loved being able to write that kind of character and understanding their motivations.
Brittany: Well, I definitely appreciate it.
Renée: Thank you, thank you!
Brittany: Now, you write a lot of very strong leading ladies and now you're on tour with four very strong female voices. How do you feel about that? And is that really important to you when you're writing a book to have this strong female narrator who's breaking these [societal boundaries] that are set out for her?
Renée: I think it's very important to break molds that are set out, but I also . . . have this knee-jerk reaction when people talk about "strong female characters."
Brittany:: So do I! This is why I wanted to ask you about it.
Renée: It's always sort of annoyed me because there are different kinds of strength.
Brittany: I feel like it's just another mold.
Brittany: All of our stories should be out there. There's not just "strong" [males] either.
Renée: Exactly! You don't see people saying a "strong male character."
Brittany: Nope, definitely not.
Renée: And how are they qualifying and quantifying strength? Usually, it's under the guise of what a man would perceive to be strong. Like physicality and the ability to work well with weapons. And I love that . . . but again, there are so many different kinds of strength. There's strength of the mind, strength of the heart, and we need to give these things equal weight 'cause it isn't good to put these strengths below physicality, because often, in my opinion, it's a very gut reaction. Anyone can swing a sword, anybody can throw a spear, or something like that. But to truly be able to understand nuance of emotion and make a difference, that involves far more than just punching something.
Brittany: I totally agree. Now . . . do you think Mariko and Shazi would be friends?
Renée: Absolutely. Absolutely, but I think they'd get on each other's nerves, though.
Brittany: I could see that.
Renée: I love both of these characters so much because, again, Shazi is incredibly impetuous, and she's a little bit reckless. She acts before she thinks. She has this very gut feeling, [like] "okay, this is what I'm going to do in these situations," you know? And then she makes it happen, and she doesn't really care what's going on around her.
Mariko is much more hesitant, she analyzes everything from all different angles and then tries to come up with the best way to respond to a situation. But it's often to her [own] detriment because she spent so much time thinking about it, but she hasn't taken the actions necessary. This is why she's in very these very terrible predicaments [in Flame in the Mist]. I think Shazi would be exasperated by Mariko's need to think so much, and Mariko would be exasperated by the fact that Shazi never has plans.
Brittany: That would be fun though!
Renée: I think they would be friends though, because the best of friends, in my opinion, we all enhance what's good about each other and challenge each other to work on the things we need to work on.
Brittany: That's definitely true.
Renée: Yeah, and I would like to think they would be terrific friends, but I think they would yell at each other a lot. It'd be like me and my sister, because I'm more like Shazi and Mariko is much more like my sister, so yeah . . .
Brittany: That's interesting!
Brittany: So, I know you love your research.
Brittany: How much research did you have to do for Flame in the Mist? I imagine a lot. And I remember when I saw you last time, you were talking about going to Oregon and learning the process of forging a katana.
Renée: Mhm, yes!
Brittany: Did you do that?
Renée: Actually, I am going to be going with Sabaa Tahir, who is one of my dear friends.
Brittany: Yes, I remember you saying that you were going to convince her to go, too!
Renée: Actually this time, she is the one who put it together! We were going to be taking a sword forging course and we're both going to be making katanas!
Brittany: That's amazing!
Renée: I'm very, very excited about it. Again, we're both the sort of writers who are very dedicated to our research.
Brittany: I mean, any reason to go get katanas made.
Renée: Right?! Exactly! I love how we're making this "for research" -laughs- when we would do this anyway.
Brittany: So besides the katanas, did you have to do a lot of other research? What was your favorite part?
Renée: I love all kinds of research, I think the things I enjoy most are food. And it's not just that I like to try food, I also like to learn how to make it. Because I feel like you can really understand the flavors and . . . so much about the culture by the way they prepare [their] food. You can see so many commonalities between cultures. I was just having this great discussion with a good friend whose family is very traditional; They live here in the U.S., but they are not necessarily trying food outside their [own] heritage. They have like, German-Polish heritage, and she thinks it's such an unfortunate situation because when I took her to have Middle Eastern food, she said, "this is the same food, it's just different spices and if they would just try it..." It's variety, you know, spice of life sort of stuff, right?
Brittany: Right, yes.
Renée: It's the best thing. You see many commonalities cross culturally when you try people's food. It's a language that doesn't need to be spoken and you can understand so much [about] people by the way they eat. So, I love that and I love clothing, jewelry, and I love, as you can guess from earlier, weaponry.
Brittany: That would explain why they are all so well-described in your books.
Renée: Oh, thank you!
Brittany: Was there anything while you were researching for Flame in the Mist, that you would be scared that it has you on a watch-list?
Renée: Oh gosh, I mean, that's a question that [all writers] joke about! Because we're asking questions like, how long does it take to die if you cut off someone's head . . . and that kind of stuff.
Brittany: I know what you mean, because I research things like, how bad does blood smell in X temperature? Does it even smell, or is just dried? Stuff like that.
Renée: Exactly! And for this book, and you see that I have more than one "H" in my last name, so it's probably not a good idea for me. But anyway, I was learning too, because Mariko is a scientist, and she's creating a lot of the traditional things you would associate with ninjas, [such as] smoke-shields, and that kind of stuff. And the science behind this was really neat and I got to . . . bother my sister for help because my sister is a scientist. So, learning how to make what amounts to early napalm during the research process definitely has me on some watch list . . . -laughs-
Brittany: Okay, so I have one final question and it's actually from my good friend Stefani Sloma, who says that she misses you.
Renée: Oh my gosh, I adore her!
Brittany: She saw on Twitter that your Patronus is a rat and she wants to know why.
Renée: Oh my god! Okay, so this is hilarious. So as soon as all of that stuff for all the houses came out for Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them and you could go onto Pottermore and get your Patronus. And of course like years ago, I took the test . . . and I was Slytherin, but I was really disappointed because I wanted to be in Gryffindor! So I did an incredibly Slytherin thing, and I lied to people and told people that I was Gryffindor. And whenever they did the changes for the test, I was like, "Oh, retake it!" And every single time, without fail, I was in Slytherin. And so, I thought that this must be a way to redeem myself, though since that time, I've totally embraced being a Slytherin. I think there is so much to love about being Slytherin too. Because . . . like with every house, there are negatives and positives.
So, my husband took the test for his Patronus, and he got this really cool one—he got an adder—which is a really neat poisonous snake. And I was like, "I'm going to do this!" So, I take the test, and I'm a rat. And initially, I'm like, god this entire situation is just trying to screw me over. First, I'm a Slytherin and now, I'm a rat! And then my husband says to me, "Well, think about it. You love the movie Ratatouille. You love Remy from Ratatouille. And rats are resourceful and they will eat anything. So that is you!"
Brittany: And they have been around forever, they have survived everything! -laughs-
Renée: Exactly! So, rats are resourceful, they will eat anything, and he's like, "that is you!" and I'm like, "That's true!" -laughs-
Brittany: Thank you so much, Renée! I'm really excited for Flame in the Mist!
Renée: Thank you so much, Brittany!
Just in case you guys are interested in the other books on the tour, I've included their information below! You should definitely check them all out :D
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Pub Date: March 7th, 2017Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Guest Post with Alwyn
The sizzling, un-put-downable sequel to the bestselling Rebel of the Sands!
Mere months ago, gunslinger Amani al'Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a mythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she's fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne.
When Amani finds herself thrust into the epicenter of the regime—the Sultan's palace—she's determined to bring the tyrant down. Desperate to uncover the Sultan's secrets by spying on his court, she tries to forget that Jin disappeared just as she was getting closest to him, and that she's a prisoner of the enemy. But the longer she remains, the more she questions whether the Sultan is really the villain she's been told he is, and who’s the real traitor to her sun-bleached, magic-filled homeland.
Forget everything you thought you knew about Miraji, about the rebellion, about djinni and Jin and the Blue-Eyed Bandit. In Traitor to the Throne, the only certainty is that everything will change.
Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin Random House
Pub. Date: February 14th, 2017
Lost to history, the story of the female gladiator has never been told. Until now.
Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king and the younger sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha. When Fallon was just a child, Sorcha was killed while defending their home from the armies of Julius Caesar.
On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister's footsteps and earn her place in her father's war band. She never gets the chance.
Fallon is captured by ruthless brigands who sell her to an elite training school for female gladiators owned by none other than Julius Caesar himself. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon s family might be her only hope of survival.
Now, Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries, deadly fights in and out of the arena, and perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier and her sworn enemy.
A richly imagined fantasy for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Cinda Williams Chima, "The Valiant" recounts Fallon s gripping journey from fierce Celtic princess to legendary gladiator and darling of the Roman empire."
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Pub. Date: January 24th, 2017
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl in this enthralling YA murder mystery set in Kenya.
In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn't exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill's personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.
With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.